Beast Within, The (UK - DVD R2 | BD RB)
Chris takes a look at this 1982 teenage metamorphosis horror on Blu-ray Disc
Late one full moonlit night, a woman stands alone on the roadside waiting for her husband to return to their broken-down car. All of a sudden she’s pounced upon, dragged into the dark woods and savaged by a barely-glimpsed assailant. But this is only the beginning of the terror in The Beast Within...
Seventeen years on, and the devoted parents of teenager Michael are at their wits’ end. Their son lies in a hospital bed, his body wracked by a mysterious illness. With doctors unable to offer any diagnosis, Michael’s desperate parents are forced to seek out the answer themselves – by digging up traumatic past events and confronting the true nature of their son’s conception.
This is another of Arrow's MGM-sourced masters, which is fine by me given the consistently high quality of the previous efforts. While there's no mistaking the era in which the film was shot due to general image characteristics, the quality of the picture here is such that you could almost be forgiven for thinking that the film was made far more recently. It's a very organic presentation, with bold yet natural colours and strong contrast (although blacks do betray the film's low-budget eighties origins). The picture isn't what you'd call razor sharp, but it's surprisingly detailed all things considered and there is little to no print damage, or at least none that is readily apparent during normal viewing conditions. The encode is also very solid, as is the norm for Arrow. All of this makes for a very good presentation.
A solitary LPCM 2.0 Stereo track is the order of the day here, offering up a solid accompaniment to the visuals. There is noticeable channel separation during a number of scenes, with Michael's first visit to the cabin being a good example, but dialogue tends to remain evenly distributed between both channels. Speaking of the dialogue, it's always clear and clean, albeit in that 'eighties' way, and overall fidelity is very good. Les Baxter's creepy score is also well-represented in the mix. Fidelity is also surprisingly good given the source, and while the track is unlikely to knock your socks off it's equally unlikely to disappoint.
Arrow has assembled yet another appealing selection of bonus material for this release of The Beast Within. A full list of what you can expect to find can be found below, followed by a brief discussion of each feature.
- Audio Commentary with Director Philippe Mora Moderated by Author Calum Waddell
- I Was a Teenage Cicada: The Making of The Beast Within
- Storyboarding The Beast
- Image Gallery
- Original Trailer
- DVD Copy
- Reversible Sleeve with Original and Newly Commissioned Artwork by Marc Schoenbach
- Collector’s Booklet
It's nice that Arrow went to the effort of recording a new commentary track for this release, but I was a little disappointed that the tracks from the Shout! disc weren't carried over. This is especially true of the Tom Holland track, as the 'pirate' tracks he did for Fright Night were very entertaining (what price an Arrow release of that film?). With that said, the commentary here makes for an enjoyable listen and flows surprisingly well, with director Mora offering up plenty of interesting anecdotes. I still don't get on with Calum Waddell's moderation though.
The making of featurette is also very enjoyable and includes interviews with Tom Holland, effects supervisor Garry Elmendorf, and actors Paul Clemens, John Dennis Johnston and Katherine Moffat. Holland's input is probably the most interesting, as he discusses the film's themes and the various ways in which the story was compromised because of the limitations of the special effects technology of the day. The storyboarding featurette is basically just Philippe Mora talking over his hand-drawn storyboards for an early sequence, but it's still enjoyable.
The slightly less exciting stuff arrives in the form of a stills gallery, the original trailer, and Arrow's customary booklet and reversible sleeve. Unusually we didn't receive a copy of the booklet this time around, so I can't comment on its contents.
The Beast Within is a cheesy flick, but there is some fun to be had here. The biggest problem appears to be that Holland's original concept simply couldn't be realised on the meagre budget, particularly the effects sequences, and so while the central theme of transformation comes through loud and clear exactly what Michael is transforming into is somewhat muddled. The Blu-ray itself should more than satisfy the film's fans though, offering as it does a more than satisfactory visual presentation ably backed by solid aural and bonus elements. While it's not one I would personally return to any time soon, The Beast Within is yet another solid catalogue release from the Arrow stable.
* Note: The images below are taken from the Blu-ray and have been resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking the individual images, but due to .jpg compression, they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.
Review by Chris Gould
Suitable only for persons of 18 years and over
Release Date: 19th May 2014
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: LPCM 2.0 Stereo English
Subtitles: English SDH
Extras: Audio Commentary, Featurettes, Gallery
Easter Egg: No
Director: Philippe Mora
Cast: Ronny Cox, Bibi Besch, Paul Clemens, Katherine Moffat
Length: 98 minutes
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